Even in the LGBT community, some thought Danny Leclair and Aubrey Loots’ wedding on a float in the Rose Parade was too in-your-face
CALIFORNIA — Danny Leclair and Aubrey Loots saved a fortune on flowers for their wedding, yet they managed to have 700,000 people attend, while millions of others watched their ceremony on TV. That’s because they married on a float on New Year’s Day in the Rose Bowl Parade.
The couple wasn’t surprised when they became the center of controversy, but what did surprise them was the criticism from the LGBT community.
Leclair called it internalized homophobia.
“This is too much, too soon,” Leclair said he heard people say. “You’re shoving it down people’s throats.”
Others said the float would embolden the detractors.
The Los Angeles Times suggested those who didn’t want to see the scheduled, un-miked 15 seconds that would be broadcast should go duck hunting instead.
“Gay ‘marriage’ is still illegal in over 30 states,” wrote detractor Karen Grube on her Facebook protest page created especially for the wedding. “Why would the Tournament of Roses promote something illegal like that?”
In California, where Grube lives, where Leclair and Loots live and where the Rose Parade takes place, marriage is legal. The Legislature said so twice. A district court said so. So did the appeals court. Twice. Then the U.S. Supreme Court had the final say last year.
Leclair said parade officials wanted to celebrate the overturning of Prop 8 by the Supreme Court last June and restoration of marriage equality to the state. Farmers Insurance was originally going to host a wedding on its float. When that company decided to change its theme to honor teachers, the parade turned to American Healthcare Foundation and asked if it would like to pick up the idea and use it on its float. The organization ran with it.
First AHF had to find the perfect couple.
Leclair said his first contact with AHF was at a gay wedding expo he attended with a friend of his who’s a wedding planner.
“A girl popped up and said, ‘Do you want to be married on a Rose Bowl float?’” Leclair said.
He applied, and they were called around Thanksgiving to come for an on-camera interview along with about 10 other finalists.
Once they were chosen, the couple probably had the simplest planning of an elaborate wedding in history.
“Our responsibility was to look good,” Loots said. “They took care of the other details.”
“They were incredibly gracious,” Leclair said. “What they were out to accomplish was to celebrate gay marriage, but they recognized it was our wedding.”
He said they were very considerate about making it personal and making sure the couple’s family and friends could participate.
That included a reception held several days before the parade.
Extra security before and during the parade included guards at the hangar where the float was stored because of threats to destroy it before it could enter the parade. During the parade, sheriff’s deputies walked up and down the route as well as alongside the float.
No incidents took place, and the couple saw little protest. They said they saw a few of the regular religious protesters with their signs and heard boos about a dozen times along the route. But every time the boos began, Leclair said something happened.
“The crowd around the booers got louder, cheering,” he said.
He said it was very emotional seeing 700,000 people cheering for their marriage and holding babies up to see the couple as they passed.
The theme of the float was “Love is the best protection.”
AHF, the largest provider of medical services to persons living with AIDS, was referring to healthy, monogamous relationships as the best protection from contracting HIV.
Leclair said he took the theme further to include love at school to protect kids from bullying and love at home to help gay and lesbian kids grow up healthy.
Leclair and Loots have been together 12 years and met after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011.
“I was so impacted by the senselessness of the event,” Leclair said. “I decided to do something.”
He began to raise money to participate in the Tanquaray African AIDS Trek. He called that a life-affirming trip.
“I met people who should have been angry,” he said. “Instead, I met people who were positive and did so much with so little.”
After the ride, he flew back to Los Angeles. That first day back, he was jet lagged and woke up at 11 p.m., so he went out to one of the clubs to go dancing. The dance floor was pumped with dry ice.
“Just as the smoke parted, there stood my husband,” Leclair said.
They introduced themselves, and Leclair immediately recognized Loots’ South African accent.
“I was goo-goo-eyed over him and impressed he knew I was from South Africa,” Loots said.
They exchanged numbers and didn’t go home with each other that first night.
“We knew this wasn’t going to be a one-night stand,” Leclair said.
Two years later, the couple had a wedding ceremony and registered as a California domestic partnership. When same-sex marriage was legal for the six months in 2008 before Proposition 8 shut it down, they didn’t bother upgrading their relationship status from domestic partner to spouse.
They said they were business owners and weren’t sure of the tax and other implications. The looming ballot proposition added to the uncertainty, they said.
Not until the Supreme Court rendered the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and overturned Prop 8 did they begin to think about getting married.
“That’s when we realized we wanted to start a family, so we were ready,” Leclair said.
Talking about the marriage equality fight across the country, Leclair said, “It’s frustrating how much time and energy each state is spending on what’s inevitable.”
The couple also is amazed at the idea that what they did was controversial.
The float was only on camera for about 15 seconds, and the ceremony wasn’t miked.
The TV announcer was Bob Eubanks, longtime host of The Newlywed Game.
“Congratulations and our best wishes to Aubrey and Danny on their wedding day!” Eubanks said as the wedding float passed.
Even that was cut by many stations covering the parade.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 14, 2014.